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MTG Nicol Bolas guide

Elder dragon Nicol Bolas was one the most powerful planeswalkers in Magic: The Gathering - but how much do you really know about him?

MTG Nicol Bolas, a golden dragon seen from the neck up, scowling downward while bathed in golden light

Once the most powerful planeswalkers in the universe, MTG elder dragon Nicol Bolas is a name that strikes fear in the hearts of heroes across the multiverse. And if that name wasn’t bad enough, try a few of his other titles out for size – Forever Serpent, Horned One, God-Pharoah, and self-titled deathbringer. That’s scary stuff.

A staple of MTG sets since 1994, Nicol Bolas can still hold his own when it comes to MTG commanders, and he has the power of red, blue, and black mana at his fingertips (or should that be claws?). He’s certainly one of the most well-known Magic: The Gathering elder dragons in the game, and he’s possibly up there with the most well-known characters to boot.

If you’re looking to find out a little more about Nicol Bolas, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a mini history lesson that’ll give you a bit of backstory next time you’re thinking of adding a Nicol Bolas card or two to your deck.

So, let’s answer the question: who is Nicol Bolas?

MTG Nicol Bolas, a golden dragon with large horns in flight, shooting blue flame from his mouth

Who is Nicol Bolas

The golden dragon Nicol Bolas was born on Dominara with his twin Ugin. He was smaller than the other elder dragons, and for much of his early life they thought him weaker, too – but Nicol Bolas would end up ruling half of Dominara before he even became a planeswalker during the climax of the Elder Dragon War.

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Bolas reigned over the Dominarian Empire of Madara for 400 years, but this was brought to an end by his former Imperial Champion, Tetsuo Umezawa, who destroyed his body and Imperial Shrine while the dragon travelled to a Meditation Plane. This act banished Nicol Bolas from Dominara, leaving him lost and unable to use his magic.

MTG Nicol Bolas, a golden dragon with two large horns seen from the neck up

Umezawa thought he’d killed Bolas in the Meditation Plane, but some of Bolas’ spirit clung to Madara. He’d later manifest once more, but he’d lose most of his magical power after the Mending, an event that altered the nature of planeswalkers forever.

Nicol Bolas would kickstart various wars and invasions throughout his life, including those on the planes of Alara, Mirrodin, and Amonkhet. Many of his schemes were attempts to recapture some of the power he’d once gained from his planeswalker spark.

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One of the greatest wars waged in his pursuit of power was the War of the Spark. Trapping several planeswalkers in Ravnica, Bolas stole their sparks in an attempt to achieve god-like power.

His plans were foiled when he was betrayed by planeswalker Liliana. Under her command, the gods Bontu and Oketra were able to steal Bolas’ collected sparks. Ugin and the Planeswalker Jace cast an illusion of Bolas’ dying, but they secretly trapped him in the Meditation Realm. Nicol Bolas was stripped of his names so that he could never be summoned again.

MTG Nicol Bolas, a golden dragon roaring whilst hovering in the air

Nicol Bolas cards

Given what a prominent villain Nicol Bolas is in the MTG universe, there are a fair few cards depicting him. Here’s some more info on Nicol Bolas cards you might consider for your deck:

Nicol Bolas, Dragon God

A legendary planeswalker, Dragon God has an interesting passive ability – it shares all the loyalty abilities of other planeswalkers on the battlefield. This can make Nicol Bolas a pretty formidable ally in a Superfriends deck.

If you manage to use it, Dragon God’s -8 loyalty ability also meshes well with a planeswalker-heavy deck. Anyone who doesn’t have a planeswalker or legendary creature under their control automatically loses the game.

MTG Nicol Bolas symbol showing a dragon's head and horns

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is a popular choice for Commander players. You can exile the card to bring its flip-side, Nicol Bolas, the Arisen, to the board, and this legendary planeswalker gives you four loyalty abilities to work with.

You can draw cards, damage creatures and planeswalkers, or bring one of your own back under your control. Alternatively, you can go for broke with the Arisen’s ultimate ability and make your opponent exile every card in their deck – except the one on the bottom.

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

Whether you use the original card from way back in 2009 or the more recent printing from Guilds of Ravnica, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker shows off the character’s signature Grixis skills.

This card gives you the ability to destroy non-permanent cards or destroy a target creature. The planeswalker’s ultimate ability also deals pain to opponents with a rule of seven – take seven damage, discard seven cards, and sacrifice seven permanents.